Saturday, January 18, 2014

Henry Wessel, Visa Del Mar, 1995

A California suburb planned but not built. Land platted, roads & landscaping roughed in, and then what?  Bankruptcy?  Greener pastures? Hillside sliding, as if to shrug off the imposition of rectilinear "rationalist" geometry, pavement cracked from seismic upheaval or running water in the wet season.  Spindly palms, likely purchased from the lowest bidder, and the sort of scrub vegetation that comes scrambling back the second desert earth is left unpaved. Distant palm at far right arrests the left-to-right scanning motion that draws the eye across the composition (compare with Wall's Hillside in Sicily, 2008), & thereby designates the photograph as a Western still picture: a tableau, not an "open field."  Cracks and shadows in complex recession from flattish foreground.  The implication of wind, something which, although present in the scene, cannot be photographed & is indicated indirectly, eg., by the palms' spindly bent trunks & fuzzed-out fronds. Curbs submerged under greenery.  The left hand hillside reminds me of Cezanne's complicated compression of space, his indication of slumping & folding by stacking successive flat planes left-right, left-right.  Last, the peculiarly clear light, which always strikes me, coming from YVR to the desert south, as a sign reading, "Freedom."

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